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August Abbott, CAS
August Abbott, CAS, Certified Avian Specialist
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 7621
Experience:  Cert. Avian Specialist; Int. Assoc.Animal Behavior Consult; Pet Ind. Joint Advisory Council; author
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About a week ago our 1 year old budgie was found with a twisted

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About a week ago our 1 year old budgie was found with a twisted neck, which is still there. She is able to eat and drink and does get around her cage awkwardly. She will even go on my finger and let me hold her. When she sleeps she is almost looking like she is curled in a ball (for balance, I guess), yet she is on her perch. Any ideas what's wrong/ how we can help? She does not sound distressed, and does still sing once in a while. She has not been dropped in her cage, but we have heard her fall from her perch at times since this happened.

I tried asking the Bird Vet Experts and received no replies, so hopefully someone can help here quickly.

From what you're describing it sounds like 'wry neck', but let me go over a couple things:

Torticollis (wry neck) may occur in birds infected with Pasteurella bacterial infection.

A bird may be a chronic carrier, living with one or multiple symptoms; however, many birds that are infected with this bacteria progress rapidly with a high mortality rate.

When the middle ear, cranial bones or meninges are infected, ‘wry neck’ (Torticollis) is seen.

Treatments include antibiotics such as Sulfonamides or in some cases, Penicillin. Be sure you have an experienced vet since Sulfas have toxic levels.

Other bacterial infections that may cause similar symptoms are:

Chlamydia, mycobacteria, salmonella, yersinia and others.

Tests should include sampling (and culture) of the nares (nostrils), oral cavity, cloaca, etc., but if the vet isn’t knowledgeable about the normal flora in the bird species they are examining, the results may not mean much. Inexperienced vets will find that the culture grows something and often base their diagnosis on what they know of mammals.


Another rather common cause behind something like this is a predominantly seed diet and nutritional deficiency. The reason I didn't mention this first is because your bird is so young and it usually takes a bit longer for this to manifest; however, it's quite possible at any time.

For immediate treatment, try feeding her some jarred baby food, all natural types (absolutely no additives or flavors) - sweet potatoes, yams, squash, carrots - sticking with the orange colors.

The baby food is usually more readily accepted than fresh, raw vegetables, but keep trying these too.

There's a lot more about nutrition and feeding options here: 4AnimalCare

Finally, but not at all the end of the possibilities:

toxicities can cause a loss of balance and restlessness in some birds, as well as the more common symptoms such as breathing difficulties, open mouthed breathing and so on.

Zinc and other toxic metals or substances can be ingested slowly over time when toys, clasps, chains, links or even cages are chewed on or played with. Other poisonings occur when the bird actually swallows a toy, link or piece of one. Watch out for bell clappers for instance.

Find an avian vet near you


Good luck with her - and please check back to let me know how you and your little one make out ok? What's her name?

These days, with birds growing fast in popularity as in home companions, many DVM’s are quite experienced and able to see and treat many birds. If you have a pet store that sells birds or know of any bird breeders – ask them who they use for their bird care.

If you have a Pet Smart in town you may have a vet for your bird. Most Pet Smart’s now have a veterinary clinic inside and many of them will see birds (open 7 days a week too).

August Abbott, CAS and other Bird Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Thank you!

That information is a lot to digest, and it will take time to review.

Since we only purchased Chicken (the budgie) in the last couple of months, from a pet store, we may be using a different food than she had been use to. If it is due to diet, could this change be seen so quickly? When my daughter purchased her food I thought it didn't look as "fancy" as what we had previously bought for our other budgies, which would live 3 - 4 years. This Hagen budgie seed says "vitamin and mineral enriched with added iodine", but there are no dried fruit bits in it, which were in the other bags.

We do not have a PetSmart near us, and due to an unfortunate dog surgery coming up, paying for a budgie for an actual vet visit is, quite frankly, out of the question at this time.

Thank you again for your help! I appreciate your time and advice!

That's understandable and no problem - there's various possibilities

And I appreciate an opportunity to give you more info about pet store packaged bird seed.

Most importantly, a psittacine, like your bird (most hook bills or parrots) do not eat the outside of the seed. That's why you'll see bowls of seed that look untouched, but when you move it you discover it's just a bowl of broken seed pods - the inside is eaten.

When a company claims to 'fortify' their seeds, what they do is spray a vitamin coating on the seeds. This doesn't do much, if any good, when left behind in the bowl right?

As for the iodine, this also plays on old (decades old) fear of problems that were seen in birds. These days in most developed countries there is iodine supplied in regular tap water. It's also in a great deal of other foods, which makes feeding your companion a varied diet very important.

So much information is flooding the net these days about what to feed a companion bird, whether a budgie/parakeet, cockatiel or marvelous macaw, it’s sometimes difficult to wade through the junk science, old wives tales, well meaning owner advice or just plain dangerous suggestions.

The vitamins from pet stores can sometimes cause more problems than they solve. I really wish they weren’t allowed to sell them (or the supposed antibiotics or sprays or mite protectors).

It’s generally recommended that most of today’s companion birds have a predominantly pelleted diet. Pellets have been continually updated since being introduced to the market years ago and today’s formulas are better than ever.

Supplementing this diet with fresh foods every day is ideal and many owners find they can re-introduce seeds - in limited amounts (perhaps once or twice a week) without the bird refusing the pellets overall.

Whole grains, dark leafy vegetables, fruits and legumes. Include the colors orange, yellow , green, plus reds too! Think sweet potatoes/yams, squash, melons, oranges, peas, chard, beets and others.

Brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat couscous and natural, whole grain pastas are great choices.

Limit fats, especially the kind from animals. Good fats are most plant fats like soy, olive and canola oils. No fried anything

Another thing you can try is all natural, human baby food. Stick to the orange colors.

They can be mixed with tiny pasta or rice, whole grain bread or toast - remember, be more creative than the bird is stubborn.

As odd as it sounds, birds don’t need much, if any vitamin C. It is a water soluable vitamin which means it passes out of the body after the body takes what it needs and C is available in a wide variety of both fresh and processed foods given to birds.

Go for the pellets to avoid overall problems - try the uncolored, plain type at first, but feel free to get creative. Whatever she will eat .

--- Do not press accept again on this question -- This is a follow up and I'm happy to do it as often as you need.

Vitamin A/Beta Carotene, on the other hand, is frequently found to be deficient in birds. This is a fat soluble vitamin which means it gets stored in the fat cells of the body, so it’s possible to overdose on it. With our companion birds though, too little is the situation most often encountered.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
thank you so much!! hopefully she'll get better